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Pinstriped Profile: Thairo Estrada — February 28, 2017

Pinstriped Profile: Thairo Estrada

By Robert M. Pimpsner

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Charleston RiverDogs second baseman Thairo Estrada before a game against the Lakewood BlueClaws at FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. Photo by Martin Griff

The New York Yankees signed infielder Thairo Estrada as an international free agent on August 2, 2012, for $49,000.  He was part of the same international free agent class that netted the Yankees Luis Torrens and others.

2013

At the start of 2014, Estrada went to Extended Spring Training to prepare to join a short season team in June.  When June came, he was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees where manager Mario Garza called him a very exciting player to watch.  “He is small in stature,” Garza said, “but he plays the game the right way, plays hard.  He is an on-base machine, dominates the routine play.”

Estrada went on to appear in 17 games for the Staten Island Yankees.  In 59 at-bats, he hit .271/.348/.288 and stole seven bases.  His season was cut short when he suffered a leg injury on July 4, 2014, in a game against the Hudson Valley Renegades.  He suffered the injury while running from first to home on the double.

After being shut down for most the season, he was sent down to the Yankees Complex in Tampa to rehab.  He closed out the season appearing in six games for the Gulf Coast League Yankees at the end of the season.  He hit .273/.304/.364 in his return.

2015

The 2015 season saw Estrada return to the Staten Island Yankees where he hit .267/.338/.360 in 63 games, 247 at bats.  His success earned him mid-season New York-Penn League All-Star honors after hitting .306 before the All-Star Break.  He had 73 at-bats against left-handed pitchers, hitting .356/.429/.466 against southpaws that season.  The majority of his time saw him hitting third in the order, batting .296/.370/.407 in the three-hole.

Most of Estrada’s time in the field in 2015 came at second base, playing 45 games there as opposed to 19 games at shortstop.  It was the first time he played second base since the 2013 season when he played nine games at the position for the Gulf Coast League Yankees.

2016

Thairo Estrada started the 2016 season with the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League.  The young infielder found himself in a prospect-laden infield that included his 2015 teammate Kyle Holder, 2014 International Free Agent Hoy Jun Park, and Angel Aguilar.  He appeared in just 35 games for the RiverDogs, hitting .286/.324/.429 in that span before earning a promotion.  He continued to hit well on the road with a .333 average, .350 OBP and .551 slugging on the road versus a .226 average, 294 OBP, and .274 slugging at Joseph P. Riley Park.  He also hit right-handed pitchers better than lefties with a line of .301/.339/.447 against righties vs. .243/.282/.378 against southpaws.

On May 23, 2016, Estrada earned a promotion to the Tampa Yankees.  In 83 games, he hit .292/.355/.375 in the Florida State League.  On September 4, 2016, he had his best game in his career thus far going 4-for-4 with three doubles and one RBI.  With the T-Yanks, he hit .317/.412/.378 against lefties and ended the season strong with a .306/.370/.379 line after the all-star break.  In total, he had 28 multi-hit games between both levels.

Estrada moved around the infield in 2016, spending time at second base, third base, and shortstop.  Most of his games came at second where he had a .961 fielding percentage in 57 games, followed by third base where he had a .958 fielding percentage in 47 games.  He saw the least amount of time at shortstop where he appeared in just eight games in 2016. He committed just 16 errors in 376 chances which were good for a .957 fielding percentage in total.

Scouting Report

When compared to some of the bigger names in the farm system Thairo Estrada has been a bit of a sleeper though he has been consistent at the plate through his minor-league career.  Estrada is a reliable defender in the field with good range, quick hands, and a plus-rated arm.  He can be a regular shortstop, but due to the depth, the Yankees have at the position he will continue to move around.  He has the arm to be a third baseman and will likely see more time at that position in 2017, but he also has the speed to see some time in the outfield.  If 2016 has proven anything, it is that he is more than capable of being a strong defender at any position the Yankees put him.

At the plate, Estrada possesses good pitch recognition and patience at the plate.  He makes solid contact and has shown to have strong knowledge of the strike zone.  While he is still filling into his body and isn’t much of a power hitter, he does make strong contact at the plate.  Estrada is a strong runner as well, with the potential to be a 20-base stealer in the majors.

2017 Outlook

Estrada ended the 2016 season hitting .292 in 83 games for the Tampa Yankees, usually a performance like that would earn him a promotion to the Trenton Thunder however with the depth the Yankees currently have in the infield he will likely find himself back in Tampa to start the 2017 season.  This season look to see Estrada see more time at third base and possibly some time in the outfield.

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Yankees’ Starlin Castro: ‘I don’t know why they run’ on Gary Sanchez — February 27, 2017

Yankees’ Starlin Castro: ‘I don’t know why they run’ on Gary Sanchez

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Gary Sanchez gunned down two runners in the third inning Sunday.

TAMPA — In case anyone has forgotten: You do not run on Gary Sanchez.

Sanchez showed off his cannon behind the plate not once but twice in the third inning Sunday, throwing out a pair of Blue Jays trying to steal second. Jon Berti and speedster Ezequiel Carrera were the victims of the 24-year-old catcher’s incredible arm in the Yankees’ 7-2 exhibition victory at Steinbrenner Field.

“I don’t know why they run,” Starlin Castro said. “It’s unbelievable, because both of them got a good jump and they were both out by two feet. It’s pretty amazing. Not even close.”

Sanchez threw out 41 percent of potential base-stealers last season.

Castro said Sanchez’s throwing ability reminds him of Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, an eight-time Gold Glove award winner.

“Everybody talked about his hitting, but he’s pretty good behind the plate, too,” Castro said.

Sanchez feels the same way throwing out runners as hitting home runs, “because I’m contributing, I’m helping the team, I’m helping my pitcher and it’s exciting.”

Four-time stolen base champion and ex-Yankee Tim (Rock) Raines was coaching first for Toronto’s B team in its split-squad game.

“He can throw. He can throw,” Joe Girardi said of Sanchez. “They had the stolen base guru at first base today. I was having a little fun with Rock over there, who has a great sense of humor and was a great teammate. But Gary’s arm strength is special. It changes the complexion of a game.”

 

“He can throw. He can throw,” Joe Girardi said of Sanchez. “They had the stolen base guru at first base today. I was having a little fun with Rock over there, who has a great sense of humor and was a great teammate. But Gary’s arm strength is special. It changes the complexion of a game.”

UPCOMING STARTERS

Here’s a look at the upcoming starters for this week: Chad Green (Monday at Baltimore), Masahiro Tanaka (Tuesday vs. Detroit, split), Luis Cessa (Tuesday at Boston, split), Bryan Mitchell (Wednesday vs. Atlanta), Adam Warren (Thursday vs. Baltimore), Luis Severino (Friday at Toronto) and Michael Pineda (Saturday at Detroit).

ELLSBURY DEBUTS

Jacoby Ellsbury went 0 for 3 with a run scored in his spring debut. Ellsbury batted second behind Brett Gardner and played center field. The Yankees still may ultimately decide to separate the two lefties at the top of the order.

ANDUJAR PRAISE

Girardi said of 21-year-old third base prospect Miguel Andujar Saturday: “This kid’s got a lot of potential. He’s got power to all fields, he can run the bases and he’s got a very good arm. For him, I think it’s more about reps. I look at him and say he’s going to be a big-league player, he just needs more reps.”

BETANCES THROWS

Dellin Betances threw a simulated game Sunday. He’ll make his exhibition debut for the Yankees Wednesday. He plans to make two or three appearances before leaving for the World Baseball Classic on March 5.

 

How Yankees phenom Gleyber Torres is like a young Derek Jeter to Joe Girardi — February 26, 2017

How Yankees phenom Gleyber Torres is like a young Derek Jeter to Joe Girardi

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Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres throws to first base during a spring training game against the Phillies at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Feb. 24, 2017.

By Randy Miller

CLEARWATER, Fla. Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, a 20-year-old farmhand seemingly destined for greatness, stepped his way to a big lead off second base during a fifth-inning rally Saturday.

Who knew that one of baseball’s very best prospects was about to illustrate a trait that Yankees great Derek Jeter had?

Jeter’s baseball IQ was off the charts and Torres seems to have it.

Back to Torres leading off second …

Yankees third baseman prospect Miguel Andujar was wading off third, outfield prospect Dustin Fowler was hitting and Mark Appel on the mound for the Phillies.

In came a pitch in the dirt that bounced off catcher Cameron Rupp and a long ways back and to the right … almost to where the Phillies’ first-base dugout starts.

Andujar scored easily, Torres hustled to third … and then kept on doing and, holy cow, wound up scoring all the way from second on a wild pitch.

“I was ready for anything,” Torres said during an interview in the late innings of the Yankees’ 6-5 loss. “It was a low pitch. It bounced away and I was ready to run, and I did.”

Torres, who started at short and was 2-for-2 with two doubles, made it sound as if his heads-up play was no big deal, but it’s something rarely seen in baseball from speedy veterans let alone a kid who probably will start the season in Double-A.

Speed is the one and only baseball tool that is just average for Torres, but baseball smarts can make it for it and they did in this instance.

“It’s just good instinct,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s aggressive base-running. There’s a lot of things that he has to do. He has to get a good secondary lead, a good jump on his secondary (lead) and then read the ball. And he did all three.

“Yeah, he’s a bright kid that knows how to play the game. And you can look at his at-bats … double down the right-field line, double down the left-field line. Using the whole field. He played a very good shortstop. So his IQ is really good.”

At that point, Girardi was asked if Torres reminds him at all of a young Jeter.

“They’re probably different kind of players in a sense,” he answered. “As far as being able to play in the moment, yes.”

Scoring from second on a wild pitch is a play in the moment, and we’re probably going to see a lot of these types of special things from Torres down the road.

When?

Maybe by September with a late-season call-up, maybe not until 2018 or perhaps not until the year after.

Where Torres plays is a question mark, too, because the Yankees already have a fairy young shortstop who is coming off a very good season in Didi Gregorius.

So maybe Torres shifts to second. Maybe Gregorius is traded. However this plays out, Torres is answering the bell as a future star, which was his calling card when the Yankees nabbed him last July from the Chicago Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade.

Torres is willing to be patient in his climb up the Yankees’ minor-league ladder.

“I think the best thing that I can accomplish in this spring training – in my first (big-league) spring training – is experience,” he said. “And being able to mature. Learn from the teammates that I have because this is a very unique opportunity.”

And Gleyber Torres, a Venezuelan who speaks pretty good English but sometimes uses a translator, looks to be a unique player … just maybe, dare we say, another Derek Jeter in the future.

“Sometimes things have been said about me and it’s nice to hear good things about me, but you’ve got to stay humble and keep working hard,” Torres said. “That’s the key … keep working hard and stay humble.”

Maybe Yankees’ Luis Severino’s role isn’t certain, after all — February 25, 2017

Maybe Yankees’ Luis Severino’s role isn’t certain, after all

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Yankees relief pitcher Luis Severino (40) works out as pitchers and catchers report for spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

By Brendan Kuty

TAMPA — Maybe Luis Severino‘s role this season isn’t certain, after all.

After Yankees general manager Brian Cashman this offseason said the talented but frustrating Luis Severino would be a starting pitcher out of spring training no matter if he’s in the bigs or the minors, manager Joe Girardi threw some doubt in there Saturday morning.

“We really haven’t talked but I think you have to look at him both ways, too, because he did a good job in that role,” Girardi, referencing Severino’s work as a reliever last year, said in his office at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Severino, a 22-year-old righty, dominated out of the bullpen.

In 11 relief outings, Severino allowed just a run, striking out 25 in 23 1/3 innings.

He was a disaster as a starting pitcher, however, going 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA in 11 starts.

Still, Severino — armed with a fastball that lives in the mid-to-upper 90s, and a curveball and a changeup that are at times devastating or awful — is too young to give up on as a starting pitcher, Girard said.

“I definitely think so,” Girard said. “I think it’s too good of an arm. There’s too much potential there. To me, it’s trying to get him ready.”

That doesn’t mean that if the Yankees need him in the majors on Opening Day, Girardi will rule out using him behind his trio of talented late-inning relievers: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard.

“He’s young,” Girardi said. “But there’s been a lot of starters that were in the bullpen for a little bit and then became starters. It’s just too hard to figure out exactly how it’s going to shake down. There are some pretty hard decisions we have to make.”

Severino said he worked hard in the offseason, losing 10 pounds and training alongside Hall of Famer and retired Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez. Severino added that his changeup — which disappeared last season — is back and feels as good as his slider, which has added depth.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has said he’s seen improvement in Severino’s stuff and control, but added that his optimism would stay cautious until Severino pitches in spring training games.

Severino is slated to start Sunday for the Yankees.

What to love about Yankees’ 9-4 win over Phillies in spring opener — February 24, 2017

What to love about Yankees’ 9-4 win over Phillies in spring opener

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George M. Steinbrenner Field before a spring training game between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. on February 24, 2017.

TAMPA — The Yankees’ Grapefruit League debut was just about flawless.

Six innings in, four Yankees pitchers were perfect … 18 up and 18 down.

There would be no perfect game, no-hitter or shutout, but this 9-4 Yankees romp over the Philadelphia Phillies was a great way to start the exhibition schedule.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a first-inning homer completely out of Steinbrenner Field, rookie right fielder Aaron Judge hit a tape-measure, fifth-inning bomb off the scoreboard in left-center field, catcher Kyle Higashioka went deep in the seventh, and rotation candidates Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa each worked a pair 1-2-3 innings.

Meantime, new DH Matt Holliday looked good in his first game in pinstripes, going 2-for-2 with two line-drive singles, and the baby bombers came up big, as outfielder Clint Frazier laced a two-run, eighth-inning triple and third baseman Miguel Andujar was 2-for-2 with a double and a triple.

Even the weather, 81 and sunny with a slight breeze, was perfect.

“It’s spring, but it’s kind of good to see where we’re at,” reliever Tyler Clippard said. “That was the one thing when I came in here to this camp that I was impressed with … how far along guys were.”

Mitchell set the tone with a 1-2-3 inning for the Yankees, then after getting a lead in the bottom of the inning on Gregorius’ one-out blast to right, the righty set the Phillies down in order again in the second.

From there, two veteran relievers retired three batters in a row, Clippard in the third and Tommy Layne in the fourth, then Cessa came on and retired all six hitters that he faced.

Down 4-0, the Phillies finally got baserunners in the seventh with left-hander Jordan Montgomery pitching. Scott Kingery reached on a throwing error by shortstop Gleyber Torres, then Cameron Perkins grounded a single up the middle for the Phillies’ first hit. The shutout ended when Daniel Nova followed with an RBI single.

The Phillies wound up getting two in the seventh to make it a 4-2 game, but the Yankees came right back with two in the seventh on a sac fly by Torres and solo homer by Higashioka.

* * *

The Yankees warmed up the big crowd by introducing a few franchise greats before the game.

Reggie Jackson, Alex Rodriguez and Ron Guidry, all spring training guest instructors, received big cheers.

The present-day Yankees gave everyone some feel-good moments, too, in a 9-4 win over the Phillies.

Fans were oohing in the fourth inning when a 68-year-old Pennsylvania woman was struck in the shoulder by a bat when Gary Sanchez lost his grip while batting in the fourth inning.

The woman left her seat for treatment, but wasn’t seriously injured.

* * *

Yankees right-handed pitching prospect Giovanny Gallegos allowed two ninth-inning homers. Cameron Perkins laced a line-drive homer to right with one out for the Phillies, and Brock Stassi homered to right with two down.

* * *

The Yankees play the Phillies again Saturday in Clearwater. Righty Adam Warren will start for the Yankees against lefty Adam Morgan in a 1:05 p.m. game that will be aired on WFAN radio.

Aaron Judge hits monster homer in Yankees’ first spring game —

Aaron Judge hits monster homer in Yankees’ first spring game

By Randy Miller

TAMPA– Yankees rookie Aaron Judge has tremendous power, and it was on display Friday at Steinbrenner Field.

In the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 9-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, Judge blasted a tremendous homer to left-center that banged off the scoreboard.

“I felt like I squared it up, so I just started running and kept running,” Judge said with a smile. ”

What was said in the dugout afterward?

“Most high-fives,” the 6-foot-7, 275-pound giant answered.

Hitting ninth in the Yankees’ spring debut, Judge batted twice before Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced all of his starters after five innings.

Judge struck out on a slider leading off the third against Phillies righty Nick Pivetta, then made up for it in the fifth batting against righty Elniery Garcia, whose 93-mph fastball was crushed.

A-Rod calls Gary Sanchez a Manny Ramirez-David Ortiz hybrid — February 23, 2017

A-Rod calls Gary Sanchez a Manny Ramirez-David Ortiz hybrid

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Yankees spring training guest advisor Alex Rodriguez (left) and catcher Gary Sanchez were teammates for a few games last season.

By Randy Miller

TAMPA — Even on rainy spring training days, Alex Rodriguez always finds a way to brighten things up.

The Yankees’ new $21-million, part-time guest advisor did it Wednesday during a radio appearance on the Michael Kay’s ESPN radio show with a fascinating Gary Sanchez comparison to two Boston Red Sox greats.

“I think Gary has the perfect makeup for New York,” Rodriguez told Kay. “I said he was kind of like a hybrid between Manny Ramirez and (David Ortiz) or something because he’s got a flair for the dramatic, but he’s got a very, very slow heartbeat. He’s extremely confident, and that’s rare for a player that age.”

Sanchez, 24, had a home run binge for the ages as a rookie last season, as he went deep 20 times in 53 games, all of the homers and all but one of the games coming after an Aug. 3 call-up from Triple-A.

Here are 7 other Yankees things to know for Thursday:

 Manager Joe Girardi says there “aren’t really any favorites” for the two open rotation spots. The competition is between five righties: Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell and Adam Warren. “There will be plenty of innings (for all five),” Girardi said. “It may be a situation where a couple of them are piggybacking one day and then you flip them the next game.”

Girardi announced his starting pitchers for his first six Grapefruit Leagues: Mitchell vs. the Phillies in Tampa on Friday (1:05 p.m.); Warren vs. the Phillies in Clearwater on Saturday (1:05 p.m.); Severino vs. the Blue Jays in Tampa on Sunday (1:05 p.m.); Green vs. the Orioles in Sarasota on Monday (1:05 p.m.);Masahiro Tanaka vs. the Tigers in a split-squad game in Tampa on Tuesday (1:05 p.m.), and Cessa vs. the Red Sox in a split-squad game in Fort Myers on Tuesday (1:05 p.m.)

Veteran left-hander CC Sabathia “may throw some simulated games” instead of Grapefruit League games because he had right knee surgery last October. “He has had no issues with his knee, but you can control it better,” Girardi said. “And sometimes pitchers like that.”

Four Yankees prospects who are in big-league camp talked Wednesday morning about their Captain’s Club event Tuesday night in which Derek Jeter showed up at a restaurant after dinner to answer a bunch of questions. “I think it’s a huge benefit,” Girardi said, “Derek obviously knows the Yankee way and what he went through to be successful here and his struggles as a minor-league player and how each year he got better and he ended up being Rookie of the Year and doing so many great things here.”

 Jacoby Ellsbury, a disappointment three seasons into his seven-year, $153-million contract, danced around questions during a Wednesday afternoon interview that GM Brian Cashman and Girardi want more this season from the 33-year-old center fielder. “You can’t try to do too much,” said Ellsbury, who hit .263 with nine homers, 56 RBIs and 20 steals in 148 games last season.

Rain on Wednesday morning wiped out a scheduled simulated game and heavy afternoon showers cut short the team’s practice. Another simulated game is scheduled for Thursday.

Before the afternoon rain, a power outage at Steinbrenner Field led to Girardi doing his daily media session in a dark pavilion conference room.

Will arbitration drama lead to Yankees dealing Dellin Betances? —

Will arbitration drama lead to Yankees dealing Dellin Betances?

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New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances delivers to a Kansas City Royals batter during the 13th inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.

By Joe Giglio

This escalated quickly.

When the Yankees and Dellin Betances stepped in front of an arbitrator last week, the relationship between the team and star reliever was intact.

By weekend’s end, it wasanything but that. From Randy Levine’s ill-fated comments to Betances’ agent firing back to a homegrown Yankee clearly upset by the process, it wasn’t pretty.

Could it lead to Betances’ eventual exit from the Bronx?

Regardless of how yearly arbitration works out for the team or player, the Yankees hold Betances’ rights through the 2019 season. Even if Betances’ wants to walk, he can’t hit free agency for three more seasons. But the Yankees could be the aggressor and move on through a trade.

On Tuesday’s episode of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight podcast with Buster Olney, the Yankees-Betances drama was a subject brought up during a conversation with ESPN’s Andrew Marchand. The podcast laid out a potential trade scenario for the 2017 trade deadline.

Olney: I think in this case it could have ramifications between Dellin and the Yankees.

Marchand: You have to wonder how long Dellin Betances is going to be a Yankee now. If they’re not good this year, he could be their best trade option–and we saw what they got for Miller and Chapman last year.

Before dismissing the idea of the Yankees dealing Betances, keep some things in mind:

Rumors of Betances on the market were present last year–before this arbitration drama began.

-If he pitches up to his standard, Betances will clearly be New York’s best trade chip–assuming Masahiro Tanaka isn’t put on the market.

-New York’s front office and Betances’ agent will have to go through this arbitration dance two more times between now and 2019.

-With Arolids Chapman under team control for at least as long (depending on Chapman’s 2019 opt-out), Betances will likely never been the Yankees closer. As we saw last year, general manager Brian Cashman isn’t afraid to deal a great set-up man for high-end prospects in a non-contending year.

Betances on the block? Get ready for the rumors to start once contending teams start calling around for bullpen help during the season.

You can listen to the entire episode of the podcast here. The Betances conversation starts around the 55:20 mark.

How Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres looks like one of the ‘great ones’ — February 21, 2017

How Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres looks like one of the ‘great ones’

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New York Yankees’ Gleyber Torres waits for his turn to take batting practice during a spring training baseball workout Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, in Tampa, Fla.

TAMPA — Any player traded to the Yankees sees a bump in his public profile, simply from being connected to the pinstripes.

Shortstop Gleyber Torres, however, has become a rising star not just because of the New York spotlight, but because of his play.

Torres, 20, was named Baseball America’s top Yankees prospect — and one of the best in the game — after earning the Arizona Fall League MVP and batting title last year.

The Yankees acquired Torres, who’s in his first major league camp, as the headliner of a package of prospects when they sent closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs at the trade deadline in July.

On the MLB Network, Yankees vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring gushed over Torres, who’s expected to start the season at Double-A Trenton but could be in the Bronx sooner than later.

Here’s what Naehring said:

“I had an opportunity to see him on video. With modern technology, you’re able to put a set of eyes on them to get an idea what they look like. Obviously, analytically, we had an idea of who he was as a player. First, I saw video, and I was so impressed with the swing mechanics. He’s got outstanding balance. He’s got (an) outstanding heartbeat, both sides of the ball. I really thought the sky’s the limit as far as someone who could have plus pitch recognition, plus power, hits the ball to all (parts of the field). Then you find out he’s 19 years of age and you’re even more impressed. Then I had an opportunity to follow him into the organization. I watched him play in Tampa, through the playoffs and then into instructional league and obviously caught him in the fall league.

“The biggest thing that stands out about this young man is his ability to slow the game down. The great ones that we see, everyone says it looks easy to them. This guy has got a tremendous heartbeat. Nothing looks too fast for him. Again, I think he’s got a lot to offer. I would think he’s someone who’s going to start at least Double-A and who knows how quickly someone like this can move because he can impact the game on both sides of the ball.”

More than just a blast has Greg Bird thinking he’s back —

More than just a blast has Greg Bird thinking he’s back

By George A. King III

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TAMPA — Two of the Yankees’ biggest question marks were on display early Monday morning in simulated-game action at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

In the scope of a big league season, a simulated game in February played at a time when the dew hasn’t left the grass means very little — unless you are Greg Bird or Aaron Judge.

For Bird, the action provided a chance to experience the feel for hitting after shoulder surgery last February cost the sweet-swinging left-handed hitter the season. For Judge, it was more at-bats to get comfortable hitting without the exaggerated leg kick he had used previously. The idea is to cut down on the strikeouts that plagued his brief time in the majors last season.

And with the exhibition schedule opening Friday against the Phillies at GMS — six days after the first full workout — any at-bats against real pitchers help.

The first-base job is Bird’s to lose and Hal Steinbrenner is looking for Judge to be the starting right fielder.

After battling through a cranky right shoulder in 2015 when he hit .261 with 11 homers, 31 RBIs and posted a .871 OPS in 46 games, the 24-year-old Bird is pleased with the results of his 2016 surgery.

BirdCharles Wenzelberg

“It wasn’t structurally right and I had to figure out how to work through that,’’ Bird said. “Now I am back to where I want to be, I can feel what I want to feel.’’

Bird faced Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Giovanny Gallegos and homered to right off the right-handed Gallegos. Judge doubled off Mitchell.

Bird said he is encouraged by how his shoulder feels with the bat moving through the zone, but there is another sign of comfort: throwing.

“It feels like I have something behind the ball,’’ Bird said. “Not that I didn’t, but it’s nice to go out and throw the ball again.’’

Bird was limited to DH duties in the Arizona Fall League as a precaution against reinjuring the shoulder. In 17 games for Scottsdale, he batted .215 (14-for-65) with a homer, 10 RBIs and a .700 OPS.

Until Chris Carter was signed to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million shortly before camp opened, Bird was in line to be the everyday first baseman. In 2015 he wasn’t overmatched by lefties, batting .238 (10-for-42) with two homers and seven RBIs. He batted .270 with nine homers and 24 RBIs versus righties.

Bird and Chris CarterCharles Wenzelberg

Some look at Carter, a right-handed hitter who led the NL in homers last season with 41 for Milwaukee, as insurance against Bird not playing well or getting hurt. Others look at Carter and see a right-handed power bat against lefties.

Bird said he sees Carter as a player who can help the Yankees and serve as a tutor.

“It’s exciting. We got a good bat, someone I can learn from,’’ Bird said of the 30-year-old Carter. “For me, coming into camp I have to prove that I am healthy and get used to playing again. I have enough on my plate. It’s good for us. I am fighting to prove I am healthy and can play. I am not fighting against anyone in particular. I want to be the best possible player I can be.’’

And if that means facing Mitchell, whose stuff is above average and will land him either in the rotation or bullpen, so be it.